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Saturday 16th Dec 2017

Back in 1996, I remember my league on draft day, speculating the return of Kevin Mitchell. Mitchell, the former Giants MVP, had just signed a deal with the Red Sox a few weeks before our auction, after spending a year in Japan.

At the time there were rules in the league around who could be drafted, and there was a question about Mitchell, who was not yet on a major league roster.

I remember being sort of phlegmatic about it at the time, for I was—and always will be—against changing rules on draft day. On the other hand, I simply did not think that much of Mitchell by that time.

But, I do remember the outfielder being referred to as an “impact player,” who was allowed to be rostered, and in the AL only format, went for $16. For, much to the disagreement of the rest of the league, I said Mitchell was a has-been (I never offered a bid for Mitchell).

.316-8-39 over 237 at-bats was the impact, though the Red Sox swapped Mitchell for Brad Tweedlie to the Reds at the trade deadline, and the Reds released him at the end of the year. He hit .153 the following year for the Indians, and .228 the next for the Athletics over 186 total at-bats in 1998, and that was the end of Mitchell’s career.

So, therein lie the lessons of Vladimir Guerrero and Manny Ramirez, both of whom are now free agents, and both of whom are also likely done with their careers. For, even if they get some major league at-bats between now and oblivion, chances are the word impact no longer fits.

Which means chances are the rebuilt Mariners rotation—which is really just a stopgap one that now features Oliver Perez—should merit some thought before making a roster commitment (even Kevin Millwood scares me).   Perez has not pitched in the majors since 2010, and then was 0-5, 6.80 (2.07 WHIP) with the Mets, and though he is still just 30 years of age, well, pass. Perez was 2-2, 4.65 with a 1.61 WHIP at Tacoma before the call-up, so stopgap should scream out to you on the gamble scale.

On the other hand, there are some other young arms that look a bit friendlier, starting with the Rangers Justin Grimm. A fifth-round pick of the Rangers out of University of Georgia in 2010, Grimm has shot through the Texas organization, with 15-6, 2.85 totals over 38 minor league starts. This year at Frisco, Grimm was 8-3, 1.87 over 77 innings, with 67 whiffs to an excellent 14 walks (65 hits for a 1.02 WHIP). Grimm won his first start in the majors Saturday allowing six hits and three runs, striking out seven, but walking none. True, the win was against the punchless Astros, but I like Grimm as a buy.

On Sunday, the Astros responded in kind, giving rookie Dallas Keuchel a start against Texas. A seventh round pick of the Astros in 2009, Keuchel was 24-29, 3.85 over 77 minor league starts and 475 innings. Keuchel is not really dominating (314 strikeouts to 499 hits) as opposed to crafty, and on Houston, avoiding the lefty despite his pretty good debut (five innings, four hits, four walks, and a run) versus the Rangers, there are still likely better options.

One would be the Tigers Justin Turner, who is slated for his 2012 Tigers debut later this week for Jim Leyland’s squad. A first rounder out of high school in 2009, Turner made his major league debut last year (0-1, 8.53 over three starts) and missed out on the Tigers 2012 Opening Day roster due to a sore arm. So, some rest and then time at Lakeland (1-2, 1.66) and the Toledo (2-1, 3.43) was logged, and Thursday Turner will be back in Detroit. He is just 21, but Turner also has a solid WHIP (1.15) over 310 minor league innings, with 256 strikeouts, 274 hits, and 84 walks. Turner is young, and may take some lumps as a youngster, but he is on a pretty good team, with a pretty good resume - which suggests a pretty good gamble.

One last pitcher to troll before we move to some potential power spots is the Cards Joe Kelly, a third rounder of the team, also in 2009. With a profile more akin to that of Keuchel, the University of California, Riverside alum has 21-22, 3.89 minor league totals over 54 starts and 338 innings (25 relief appearances are in there). 337 hits, with 136 walks (1.36 WHIP) suggest an arm that needs to be fine, as do just 280 strikeouts. 14 hits and a pair of walks to just seven strikeouts over 9.1 major league innings confirms this cautionary pitcher, despite his 2.89 ERA. That will likely not last.

Last week I noted that Eric Hosmer was on the verge of some bigger numbers, and he has upped his average to a much more respectable .228 (remember Hosmer was near the Mendoza line just a few weeks ago. Well, I have had a hard time convincing my band mates in the Biletones (Bill Alberti, Tom Nelson, and Paul McArdle) that Brandon Belt will be ok, but we all have to be patient until he feels confident.

Well, it looks like he now is indeed that. Over the past ten days Belt is .308-3-9, and those homers were not just Belt’s first of the season, but hit in consecutive games. The NL counterpart to Hosmer, Belt is now at .248-3-24 with a good .360 OBP. As with Hosmer, those who are disgruntled with Belt are likely willing to let him go. Now is the time to pounce.

Boston brought back Ryan Kalish—the 13th outfielder to hit their roster this year—after over a year off due to shoulder surgery. Kalish has shown he can hit at Triple-A, hitting .378-4-10 at Pawtucket since returning to play after the torn labrum surgery. In 2010, prior to the injury, Kalish was .252-4-24 over 163 at-bats. Kalish also scored 26, and swiped ten bags, meaning there is some talent there, and in an AL only format, he is worth the gamble for sure.

Speaking of Ryans, the Tigers recalled Ryan Raburn, who was sent to the minors after hitting a pathetic .146-1-8. In Toledo, the second baseman/outfielder was hardly better at .196-1-3. But, don’t dismiss Raburn entirely, as he is a horrible first halfer with .216-21-90 totals before the break as a major leaguer, but .300-33-122 numbers after.  Plus, that position flexibility is a nice thing. Raburn is a nice fetch now before he gets heated up with the dog days.

I have long been a fan of the Rangers Leonys Martin, who seems to have a life like another prospect I like in Lorenzo Cain. It seems like these guys get untracked, get some attention, and even a job, and then get injured. The 24-year old was hitting .344-5-22 with a terrific .414 OBP (15 walks to 22 whiffs) and seven swipes. The biggest problem for Martin, however, will be playing time. The Rangers are so good and deep, well, what can I say? Still, I do love the guy and his future prospects.

Finally, if you want a hot bat, take a look at Casey McGehee, who over the past week has hit .429-2-6 over 21 at-bats. Now hitting .243-3-18, McGehee and his hot bat—and don’t forget, he qualifies at first and third—are surely worth a gamble in NL only formats. Remember, ride the hot hand while you can!

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